Women in Research Fellows 2022

Tuesday, 12 October 2021

The office of the Pro Vice-Chancellor Research and Innovation is delighted to announce the 2022 Research Advantage Women in Research Fellows. The Selection Review Committee have chosen 13 new Fellows from an extremely strong field across the three colleges.

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They join an alumni of 30 Fellows who credit the program with the acceleration of their research career.

The Women In Research program was established in 2017 to support the development of senior research leaders from Early and Mid-Career Researchers through dedicated mentoring and support.

With each cohort , talented researchers are required to highlight their achievements and demonstrate their potential for real research impact. And from this pool, our Women in Research Fellows are selected for the 12-month high-impact program.

As Chair of the selection committee and champion of the program, Professor Brian Kelly, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Research) emphasised that the selection review committee were overwhelmed with high quality applications. “When narrowing down the shortlist we looked at the applicants’ track record and at the potential for transformative research in the term of the Fellowship,” he said.

The thirteen successful Fellows represent exemplars across the institution,” Professor Kelly added. “We know that the WIR Fellowships have the ability to transform a researcher as they progress to the next stage of their research career so we are thrilled to award these Fellowships to the best of the best.”

Acting Deputy-Vice Chancellor for Research and  Innovation Professor Liz Sullivan highlighted that COVID-19 restrictions over the past 18 months have placed additional challenges on researchers who have had to juggle online modes of delivery with family and carer responsibilities. “There is no doubt that we are currently experiencing unprecedented challenges that impact on our lives in so many ways,” Professor Sullivan said. “The Women in Research Fellowships will enable these researchers to reset and refocus on strengthening their research careers.”

Awarding the Women in Research Fellowships to these 13 outstanding women researchers is a bright note in the year, and we look forward to seeing what our next generation of Fellows deliver,” Professor Sullivan added

Our 2022 Women in Research Fellows are:

Dr Emma Beckett who plans to implement a research and translation project aimed at improving vegetable intake in our communities. Currently, less than eight per cent of Australians eat the recommended five serves of vegetables per day. Emma aims to develop a multi-week incremental program to improve vegetable intake in our communities.

Dr Emily Freeman aims to improve children’s wellbeing by focussing on their social, emotional and cognitive wellbeing. Emily’s work has explored the father-child relationship and has looked at how rough-and-tumble play can strengthen the bond between them. Her aim is to grow her industry relationships and continue to do further research into Better, Healthier Living and Connected Communities.

Dr Sarah Hiles wants to explore the relationship between mental health and physical health. Depression and anxiety are more common in people who have a physical health problem, and Sarah wants to ensure that these people receive optimal health care to treat both issues. She will seek to identify why some people don’t take medication for their illness, and how this impacts on their mental health.

Dr Megan Huggett intends to focus on building her research on isolation of key marine microbes and establish a marine microbial culture lab on the Central Coast Campus. She aims to work with one of the world’s top microbial oceanographers and establish herself as a leading expert Nationally in this field. She seeks to quantify the impact of ocean ecosystems in the Earth’s carbon cycle – one of the greatest challenges in oceanography.

Dr Melinda Hutchesson has a research vision to improve health behaviours of university students to promote mental health and wellbeing, and prevent mental ill-health. Melinda aims to establish a cohort study, co-designed with end-users, to ascertain what changes in behaviour occur at University to impact on a person’s mental health and wellbeing. The study will commence in 2022 and will be repeated during each year of the student’s enrolment.

Dr Michelle Kelly developed the Brief Assessment of Social Skills (BASS) screening tool to gauge social cognition in people with dementia. Having collaborated with researchers nationally and globally, the tool is ripe for dissemination into clinical healthcare, so Michelle aims to undertake the next crucial steps toward implementation. Michelle will develop and nurture strong networks of medical/allied health professionals to establish evidence-based clinical research services for people with Dementia.

Dr Suzanne Macqueen will expand on her research on equity in education through building collaborative partnerships nationally and internationally. Suzanne’s work on global citizenship is viewed through a lens of interdependence, identity and cultural diversity, social justice and sustainability. She aims to explore what happens when students are impacted by multiple disadvantage? How can they achieve equity?

Dr Julie McIntyre is one of Australia’s leading historians of wine in society, culture, economy and the environment. Julie aims to use her Women in Research Fellowship to build on her research and nurture industry partnerships in the cultural and wine/tourism sectors. By collaborating with research leaders in their fields, Julie aims to foster stronger knowledge of Indigenous Australians and humanities contribution to the future of the region.

Dr Irene Perez-Lopez’s interdisciplinary research examines the future vulnerability and challenges of adaptation and migration faced by coastal and delta cities in the face of the climate emergency. Her aim is to generate evidence-based design guidelines in response to the key challenges that our cities and inhabitants will face in relation to climate change, mitigation and adaptation.

Dr Hannah Schunker will work to understand one of the fundamental problems in astrophysics: the solar dynamo. Hannah has made her mark by identifying the “Schunker Effect” and aims to build on this through broadening her field to other stars to explore rotation in stellar dynamo theories.

Dr Helena Sit has a research focus on second language education, international education and cultural diversity and inclusivity. Her aim is to collaborate with schools to innovate teaching programs to facilitate students learning a second language. Helena intends to collaborate with leading scholars globally and nationally to achieve increased research outcomes in the area of bilingualism and mutlilinguism.

Dr Nisha Thapliyal aims to continue to develop her research trajectory in the fields of Peace and Social Justice Education and South Asia Studies. Her research has two strands: Critical Peace Education Research Strand and Social Movement Strand. To this end, Nisha will co-host an interdisciplinary research symposium and complete a study with NGO and academic partners.

Dr Michelle Wong-Brown will establish an independent research program of drug repurposing in breast cancer. Working with triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), the most aggressive and difficult to treat breast cancer, Michelle will work to explore new treatment options. TNBC also shares genomic similarities with ovarian cancer – another deadly disease where Michelle is working to improve patient outcomes.

Find out more about the program here.


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